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Actually listening to the lyrics
Eminem in general
Member Name: black sheep
Eminem in general
Date: 05/09/01, updated on 05/09/01 (360 review reads)
Advantages: educational, intellectually stimulating, catchy tunes
Disadvantages: in your face, shocking, loads of swearing
This opinion largely arose as a reaction to snappy's opinion on Eminem, where he suggests that Eminem is mindlessly abusive, sexist, homophobic etc. and not something that it is appropriate for children to listen to. I disagree. And here's why:
I think we underrate Eminem's intelligence. If you listen to the lyrics (not always pleasant, I'll admit, especially those about Ken Kaniff from Connecticut), Eminem seems to be equally scathing about himself, his own position and his own opinions. Ironically, the lyrics of Stan are usually chopped just before the end on children's TV shows, I assume because the ending is considered too harsh for the children, although it may just be a time factor. It is, however, at the end of the song where Eminem points out that he never wanted Stan to live his life in this way and that he has been misinterpreting the lyrics. The Eminem character turns out to have been quite different from how Stan assumes and is actually concerned about his fans and having had genuine reasons for not replying to Stan's letters. Until this point, I had fallen into the trap of believing that Stan was writing in vain and that he had no chance of a star actually replying to him, be it Eminem or any other. Eminem also gives the opinion that it is foolish to kill yourself in a car and that Stan ought to be nicer to his girlfriend as they 'need each other'.
Indeed, as snappy points out in his opinion on this subject, Eminem is just the stage character of Marshall Mathers - which is the name that the artist known as Eminem was born under. This name is also now frequently used in Eminem's songs along with the real-life names of his wife (Kim) and his daughter (Hayley). I assume, from the song in which Eminem describes how he kidnaps and murders his wife in front of his daughter and then runs off with his daughter - speaking directly to the character 'Hayley' about 'Kim', that he has been devel
oping stories and characters for real names as well. To the best of my knowledge, Kim is still alive and in the process of divorcing Marshall Mathers. This clever blurring of reality and fiction gives pause for thought, particularly to the young people at whom these songs are often said to be aimed. Young people, on the whole, are the ones who know more real life facts about their favourite artists than the artists themselves and must therefore be aware of the unreality of this particular lyric, hopefully causing them to question the level of truth in all the lyrics.
If this is too subtle for you, in a further song on the same albumn Eminem blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality directly. Here, he makes it clear that you cannot believe everything you hear in the media by first claiming to have taken various drugs, then claiming the opposite, taking the stance 'what, you believed me when I said that?'. If children are listening properly to the songs (rather than just hearing them occasionally when someone else plays them), surely they must be able to hear these messages. It is a little hard to imagine that our children, bombarded as they are every day by media images have not gained a degree of media literacy. I think Eminem is fulfilling a very valuable role in educating our children in a way that might actually get through to them - after all, children are excellent at detecting the source of warnings and the reason they've been given, which is why teenage pregnancies and instances of teenagers smoking continue to rise
The majority of it is just swearing and saying the sort of thing that you've been able to hear on school playgrounds since I was at school. The only difference being that Eminem is famous. I seriously doubt that most of the teenage children who claim to have spent their weekends taking drugs and having sex actually have either. OK, presumably Eminem does have sex occasionally, he has a wife and a daughter a
nd groupies, but this does not mean his descriptions of the act are accurate depictions of what he himself has actually done. To be honest, even if he has done it all, it's not going to be any more harmful to his listeners than hearing various made up tales. I find I can only detect the reality in a story if I have enough experience to say that sounds like how it happened when I did it or no way, that would mean you have to be able to bend your knee joints backwards and occupy two different points in the space-time continuum simulataneously.
As to violence, I believe that actions speak much louder than words and it is those children who get hit who are most likely to hit others, not those who have heard about it. When my parents hit me, but told me that violence solved nothing, I did as they did not as they said and hit my brother and others - which violence cannot be attributed to violent media images as my parents felt strongly that that was the sort of violence I should be sheltered from.
In other words, I think that Eminem plays an important role in educating our already media literate young, and that his lyrics call us to think twice about what we are being told. I'm not saying that his lyrics don't shock me, I'm just saying that I think there is a place for this in our society. The days of getting pregnant because you didn't know what sex was are long gone and should not be mourned. This is the logical extension. Plus, I thoroughly enjoy his music which is catchy and easy to listen to.
Bear in mind, no-one is forcing you to listen to it. It's not exactly hard to avoid the kind of radio station and TV shows that play it. If you're not in the mood to be shocked, just switch it off.